Apologies for the lack of posts recently. My inactivity can be put down to one or all of fear at writing something rubbish, procrastination to avoid writing something rubbish and/or general busyness. In the event, it was the words of encouragement from friends and loved ones which have finally prompted me to come out of my literary stupor to write about one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life: becoming engaged.
My fiancée and I have been engaged for a few months now and its reality has only just set in. I popped the question in March during an amazing holiday in New Zealand after somehow concealing from my fiancée even the slightest hint of a proposal right until the very last minute. This involved smuggling a ring into New Zealand (in my wallet) and reacting like a maniac whenever my fiancée went near my wallet when I would usually encourage her to rifle through it. Even at the time I was on one knee, my fiancée asked if I was serious – so good I was at hiding my intentions (or it may have been my fiancée’s wilful obliviousness!)! If only she knew then what I had gone through to get to that moment. To be fair to her, I have now bombarded my fiancée with so many pity-seeking pre-engagement tales that she now tells my own story better than me!
What they don’t tell you before popping the questions is: 1) you need to know about the “4 C’s” when it comes to buying diamonds; 2) how stressful it is engineering a situation where you ask for your partner’s parents’ blessing; 3) how everyone is obsessed by the date of any wedding; and 4) that an engagement party is not only expected but necessary. Naively I thought that my work was done once I bought the ring and went down on one knee. What I now realise is that this was just the beginning…..
I knew the time was right for a proposal around 2 months before I finally had the stones to pop the question. The first thing was the ring, and I went into this like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat. If I was to advise anyone thinking of popping the question in the near future, I would say acquire the most rudimentary knowledge on diamonds and the 4 “C’s” – cut, clarity, colour and carat (they should add a fifth C: cost). Without this knowledge, you become easy pickings for a salesperson. They could sniff me from a mile off coming along all naïve and impressed with the most modest sparkle. When you arm yourself with information you make the ring salesperson earn their money, and you don’t end up with a ring you could easily get in a Kinder Surprise egg. I would also advise enlisting the help of a female friend who isn’t afraid to call you out on your bullshit – this was invaluable to me.
Not the in-laws!
Next is asking the parents. Traditionally you are meant to ask the father for “permission”. Without wishing to look at my future fiancée as a commodity and given it is 2015, I thought it would be a nice touch to ask both parents for their “blessing”. In theory that sounds easy. In reality, it is far from it. All of my attempts to isolate my fiancées parents to break the news to them were so awkward and clunky that in my private moments I think they just pitied me. At times, I even think they wanted to ask themselves for me. Asking the parents was by far the hardest part of the whole experience, mainly because of the fear of being that guy where the parents say in response to being asked for their blessing: “you know what, nah…. I refuse my blessing”. As is always the way, there was nothing to fear.
Once the parents are dealt with you start thinking about how you’re actually going to pop the question. Up until the night in question, I did not have a clue and I went on various reconnaissance missions to find a suitable spot. Then you start thinking about going down on one knee, hiding the ring box and maintaining calm throughout the day. Needless to say, I was crapping myself over all of these things – but at least the fiancée had no clue about it. Then comes the moment. Your heart is pounding, the words don’t come out as you intended and you quietly hope for the best. When the yes comes, the feeling is one of joy, but also overwhelming relief.
All of that is scary enough and it would be reasonable to think my work is now done right? Nope… There’s loads to do. After the congratulations (which I do rather enjoy), the next question is: “have you set a date?” Obviously we haven’t, but the next anxiety inducing question is: “you need to book a venue now”. Even if you’re right, can you just let me enjoy being engaged, allow me to bury my head in the sand. Then comes “when is the engagement party?” and you think, “shit, haven’t even thought of that…” The engagement party is another matter and one which we’ve only recently had the bravery to confirm a date.
When I take a moment to appreciate what being engaged is about, I realise that it was the best thing I ever did. As time passes you become more at peace with the gravity of the decision and reality dawns. I wouldn’t change any of it: the stress, the cost, the endless questions. Being engaged is confirmation of a free choice that two people in love have made to spend their lives with one another, and when you take a step back that is all that really matters. Everything else is window dressing.